Before Amen by Max Lucado {A Review}

The Power of a Simple Prayer. 

Max Lucado admits he is a prayer wimp. Or as he actually states in the opening pages of his book, Before Amen, he is a recovering prayer wimp. With that line I was hooked. 

I struggle with prayer. Okay, I struggle with prayer when life is good. When things are going along smoothly, or as smoothly as they can in my life, I tend to forget to pray. I don’t take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. 

Shoot I barely remember to thank Him for each meal. Instead I choose to snarf it all down. Then I berate myself for not returning thanks for His blessing, His provision. 

Even sometimes when life is hard and it hurts I find it difficult to pray. Because sometimes I blame God for the difficulty. Okay, more than sometimes. I know mentally that I reside in a fallen world, and I daily battle my own sin nature (even though at times I do indeed forget that), I still often think God could just fix it all and I’d never be hurt again and life would be smooth. 

I often forget God. Period. In good times and hard times. He is often the last person on my mind. 

Yeah, and I have the audacity to call myself a Christian, a believer, a disciple-follower of Jesus. 

In Mr. FullCup’s job he has a time of prayer on the radio. Live. He prays fervently, passionately. People often come to me and express their gratitude for his prayers. They complain when they miss hearing his prayer for a day. 

I’ll admit, I get a little jealous. I don’t pray like that. I have never prayed like that. When someone asks me to pray in a group my mind goes completely blank. I can think of nothing intelligent…or stupid to say at all. In fact, it’s not just when I’m asked to pray in a group. Often when I attempt to pray on my own the same thing happens. 

Max knows people like that too. And while he doesn’t specifically say he’s jealous, I’m confident that he has felt those pangs of envy on more than one occasion. 

What is to be done with this? Why are some people “blessed” with a strong, vibrant prayer life and other people struggle just to string coherent words together when life is good? 

We aren’t alone in our struggles and questions. In fact, we’re in very good company. You see the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. They didn’t ask Him to teach them to evangelize, to break bread and feed 5000 men, or how to raise someone from the dead, how to heal the sick, or how to make the lame walk. No, they asked Him to teach them to pray. 

Max condenses the Lord’s Prayer to six simple lines. Lines we can all easily remember and pray in a moment. These simple lines…easy to remember….are a springboard for our minds to add our own petitions. 

Father, You are good. I need help. Heal me and forgive me. They need help. Thank you. In Jesus name Amen. 

Since reading the book and following the prayer I find my brain can’t stop at “You are good”. My mind naturally adds more praise. He is good. He is the ONLY One who is Good. He is good no matter what the outcome is. 

I add what I need help with, what my problem is at the moment. I’m specific when I ask for healing and forgiveness. I specifically ask for specific people to have help with their specific need at the moment. If I don’t know, simply saying “they need help” is enough. God knows. 

If you struggle with your prayer life, if you wish you could pray better, longer, stronger, with more fire, faith and fervency, this book is for you.  The books is small enough read quickly, I read it in an afternoon. But powerful enough you’ll want to read it with pen in hand. You’ll want to pause often to pray. You’ll want to read it over and over. 

There is a study guide in the back of the book. So grab some friends and learn together. There is also a dvd with 4 sessions, perfect for studying with your Sunday School class, Bible study, small group or your church as a whole. 

I LOVED this book. The only think I was not in love with is something I don’t like about many Christian non-fiction books. The lack of capitalizing personal pronouns referring to God. 

I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own. 

A Series of Unfortunate Events

That is what I named my calendar today. Not that I think it truly is a series of Unfortunate events, not all. But it’s just a funny name for a calendar.

I’m not a very organized person. I’m usually pretty happy if my socks match. And are folded. In the drawer. My oldest wonders how on earth I’ve lived this long without being “properly” organized. She takes Type-A to a whole new level. And that is okay. She refuses me the privilege of putting my books away on the bookshelf.

“Why?” you ask. Because I find a spot the book will fit in and there it stays. Not her. She organizes them all alphabetically by author and series.

School has started and with that our schedule has returned to it’s normal pace. Only this year we added a few things to our schedule.

The 11 year old plays volleyball with our local Christian school. She’s had two practices so far and her first game is Wednesday. I plan on being one of “those Momma’s” who attend every single game. But I won’t be the yelling kind.

The girls are also taking a couple of classes with a homeschool cooperative. Not many. In fact just 2, both will take one and the oldest will take another one.

In working out our schedule on the calendar I was struck by a flash of genius. Why don’t I color code our activities. That way we can see at a glance who has what, when and where.  In the words of the oldest child living in my house, “Momma! This is probably the more organized thing you’ve ever done!”

I fear she is probably correct. Which is why she is still living at this moment.

The above photo of my calender (minus a few events) was posted on facebook and has garnered quite the comments. I’ve been blessed by friends commenting different apps and calendars that they have found useful.

I spent the better part of the morning sitting here working on the calendar, first in long hand and then using google calendar. Now I’m going to try some of the other apps. I’m not pleased with how google calendar looks on my phone.

How do you keep track of your family’s activities?

DreamTreaders by Wayne Thomas Baston {A Review}

Archer is one of three DreamTreaders. He often battles the Nightmare Lord, sometimes with good results, sometimes with not so good outcomes. 

Archer is 14 and impulsive. He often doesn’t follow direct orders from Master Gabriel, and that leads to dastardly consequences. 

When the other two DreamTreaders disappear it is up to Archer to find them. But can he find them without disobeying Master Gabriel? Can he find them in time? Who can he trust to help him? Will he choose to trust the right person? 

Just what is a DreamTreader? A person who treads the Dream World repairing rifts in the dream fabric. What causes the rifts? Lucid Walkers for one. What is a Lucid Walker? A person, not a DreamTreader, who through some means (never explained in the book) enters the dream while still awake and participates in the dream. They have super natural abilities. But every time they use their abilities (available only in the dream) they lose some of their energy. They must reserve enough energy to get back to their anchor so they can return to the real world. To not make it back by 12 tolls of the clock means they are stuck permanently in the dream. To be stuck permanently in the dream means basically you lose your mind in the real world. 

This is, of course a work of fiction. Supposedly of Christian fiction. Written by Wayne Thomas Batson is a work of fantasy admittedly fantasy is not my favorite genre. I believe this book was written to be similar to The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. But I think it falls short. 

This book has a 14 year old, a freshman in high school acting more like a parent to his siblings and his own father than his father does. Archer also, in my opinion, goes looking for trouble in the dream. I can’t help but think he is searching for demons to destroy. 

If this is supposed to be a book about good triumphing over evil, God vs. satan, it falls short. There is a figure who, I believe, represents satan (the Nightmare Lord) but there is no one who would represent God. Good doesn’t triumph over evil. Yes, Archer wins the final battle with the Nightmare Lord but in the process commits murder (unknowingly and in the dream), and on more than on occasion he completely defies his master’s orders. With no consequences to himself. 

This book is written for the junior high/high school set. I requested the book to review initially to have my own 14 year old read it. I am glad I read it first. I’m not sure I’ll pass it along to her. I have no issues with fantasy, I have no issues with good triumphing over evil, or God vs. satan books. None at all. But when a book is marketed to Christian teens and says nothing at all about God, or mention Him, or have a character that obviously represents Him, I have issues. 

I want my children to read books by Christian authors who cement their belief about God and how He operates. I want them to know there is a God and I can see Him in this work of fiction. 

Now I do not expect my children to read only Christian books. We frequent the library and bookstores. Had they seen this book in the library and wanted to check it out, I’m not sure I would say yes. There is just something about this book that doesn’t set right with me. 

(I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.)

Urban Watercolor Sketching

My youngest child has quite the artistic flair.  I’ve posted some pictures of her artwork and she continues to work at it and improve.

Most of what she does is  pencil sketching. I wanted her to branch out a bit and try new mediums, so I requested Urban WaterColor Sketching to review through Blogging For Books.  When the book arrived, she immediately took it from me and I’ve only been able to flip through it once.

The subtitle of the book, by Felix Scheinberger, is A Guide to Drawing, Painting, and Storytelling in Color.  The pages are full of Mr. Scheinberger’s artwork done in watercolor.

What I like about the book are the tips he gives every few pages. Tips like “Watercolor paints may change color as they dry.” and “Yellow is very sensitive to impurities…”

This is a great book to use in an art lesson, school classroom or just to brush up on your own knowledge.

Here is what my 11 year old thought of the book:

I love this book because it is written in a comprehensive, easy to understand style. And Mr. Scheinberger doesn’t just  show you how to do it,but he tells you how as well. The only drawback for me was that some his graphics were slightly frightening.

I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

Sadie’s Stitching

I’m having a love affair.

It’s true, and I’m freely admitting it here for all the world to see.

I am in love with….

slippers.

Yes, slippers. Okay really all-things pajama, but especially slippers.

Slippers are the one “shoe” I can wear that covers my feet in the summer without my toes complaining, longing to breathe free.  It’s like they know it’s summer and summer means slip-slops…or flip-flops for those of you who didn’t have my 11-year old grow up in your house. She was convinced for years they were slip-slops. Because “when you slip, you slop.” was her rationale.

Sadie!

My friend Sadie is a knitter with some awesome mad knitting skills. I mean she’s got some amazing skills!  She recently made these for me….

20140827_083928

They are knitted, felted slippers.  Made from Brown Sheep Wool they are warm enough to warm to coldest tootsies in the coldest winter, which okay since it’s August I haven’t actually tried that theory out yet, but I have seen people wear these in the snow.

So there.

Since they are wool, they are also cool enough to wear on the warmest summer day without having your feet feel like they are living in a sauna.

Now that I have tried. Yes, I have. I have worn these on warm summer days and I was just fine.

20140827_083940

If your fancy leads to more fancy than solid colors, look what she can do for you!

Wow-wee

If you can think it, she can do it.

She isn’t limited to slippers either. I tell ya this girl has some mad knitting skills.

If you need stitch markers…Sadie’s your girl.

Sadie is currently in college, so her time is somewhat limited, but she would be happy to talk to you about the possibility of making some Christmas gifts for you to give your loved ones this year. Her prices are very reasonable! If you need talk to her about your needs, leave me a comment and I’ll tell you how to get in touch with her. (I say that because I don’t feel comfortable putting her information on this post.)

a beautiful defeat by Kevin Malarkey {A Review}

I’m not going to lie, sometimes books scare me.  I am finding I have little or no patience with books I don’t agree with; those books that are written more to make one feel good than to make one see the need for a Savior and change. Those books that say, “God is a God of love and He loves you just the way you are. You have no need to change anything about you. You’re perfect just as you are. God has no problem with how you are choosing to live your life.”

I have issues with this because I find absolutely no biblical basis for that line of thinking. Yes, God is a God of love. We read that over and over in the Bible. And yes, it also says that He first loved us. It even goes so far as to say when we were God’s enemies, He died for us. Why did He die for us?

Because He loved us.  He created us to be in a relationship with Him only our sin got in the way. He made a way, through Jesus for us to  be again in that relationship with Him.

When someone loves us, our natural response should be to love them in return.  To desire to please that person.  In our sinfulness we can’t please God. We can’t.

Our response to God’s love for us should be to love Him in return.  And that love response should produce a change in our behavior. Sins we commit habitually should cause us pain.

To accept God’s love and then continue to choose to live like His enemy, like we are the all-powerful one in control of the relationship is ludicrous.  Yet when we choose to continue to live in our sin…to live a lifestyle in opposition to God…we are not loving God. We are loving ourselves.

I’m afraid many people are being loved right into the pit of hell.

Kevin Malarkey touches on this in his book, A Beautiful Defeat, Find True Freedom and Purpose in Total Surrender to God.

“The message is not of God saying, ‘I died for your sins to work as a consultant to help you achieve the life you’re determined to have.’ Jesus died to reconcile us to God so that we can die and give our lives to Him and to others–a total surrender that is truly a beautiful defeat.”

I believe this is a must-read for every Christian. We spend so much of our time rushing here and there trying to accomplish something for God. Trying to be good enough, holy enough, to make ourselves better so we can achieve the life we want. When all God says is “Abide in Me”, “Be holy as I am holy.”

How do we accomplish that?

We live in surrender…complete surrender to Him.

Kevin starts the book by saying what so many people are saying, we have to live real, authentic lives. We have to be real about our struggles. We can’t hide them and expect to make a difference.  He calls us first to live authentic lives. Then we are called to live surrendered lives.

To live a surrendered life we must die. We must die to ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Jesus.

It’s not easy. But it is necessary.

If you’re wanting see what an authentic surrender life looks like, if you need a little help getting God’s Word on living a life of surrender and total freedom, you should read this book!

I love how much Scripture is in the book.  His stories to illustrate his points are apt and fitting. His writing style is definitely easy to read.

Kevin has written 10 action steps to living a surrendered life. Each chapter discusses one step, recapped at the end and he has written a prayer that goes along with the step. This would be a great Bible study book, small group topic, or even just one you use for your own quiet time with Jesus.

 

I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of review from BookLook Bloggers. All opinions are my own.

 

NIV Pink Bible {A Review}

This is a great Bible!!!  I am not a fan of the color pink, but this is gorgeous. And if you’ve been reading my blog for very long you know my girls have a habit of taking my books. This one will remain mine.

This is not a study Bible, doesn’t have  center-column references, or study notes on the bottom. This is a Bible you get to study and learn all on your own.

Zondervan did a masterful job with this one. As you can tell from the picture the box is beautiful.  The Bible itself is gorgeous. DuoTone Hot Pink with Pin with a small silver embellishment.

You might be asking why it’s pink.  It’s pink because it was designed for any woman who has been touched by breast cancer. Whether we personally are a survivor or we are one who walked through the disease with a close friend or relative, this Bible is for us.  Zondervan calls it “an invitation to hope” and scattered throughout the text are9 special devotionals or prayers designed to bring hope to those ravaged, either physically, emotionally (or both) by this insidious disease.

It is a slimline, but the print is not tiny. This was the Bible I chose to take to church yesterday and I had no problems following along with it on my lap.

If you or someone you know is walking the path of breast cancer this is a great Bible to have.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it would be a great time to carry this Bible with you.

20140825_092543

(I received a free copy of this Bible from BookLook Bloggers for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.)